Gambian Members Of Parliament To Uphold Skin-Bleaching Ban
Gambian lawmakers on Monday rejected a government proposal to lift a ban on skin-lightening products, which are widely used across Africa.
Skin lightening is also practised in other parts of the world such as South Asia and the Middle East and is particularly popular among women.
However, it is controversial, with many people arguing that the phenomenon is a toxic legacy of colonialism and that the bleaching agents used to lighten skin pose health risks.
A 1996 law passed under Jammeh (1994-2017) bans the import of skin-lightening products and punishes importers with a fine of 30,000 dalasis ($400). The fine imposed on users is 5,000 dalasis ($100).
Yahya Jammeh came to power in 1994 in a coup d‘état and for 22 years he led a regime of fierce repression, marked by cases of torture, rape, and extra-judicial executions.
He was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017, yielding to African military intervention after rejecting his presidential defeat at the hands of opponent Adama Barrow.
Barrow’s government sought to lift the skin-bleaching ban last year, arguing that it discriminated against women.
Justice Minister Dawda Jallow also argued that criminalising people for using cosmetic products was an unfair punishment.
MP Halifa Sallah said the bill was necessary to stop men from abusing women by threatening to denounce them for bleaching their skin.
Women immigration officers have been arrested for bleaching, he said. “Who knows what happened to them,” Sallah asked, and instead called for an emphasis on education.
However, on Monday, several lawmakers argued in favour of maintaining the ban, citing health or religious reasons.
“The chemicals used in the production of skin-bleaching creams are hazardous to human health,” Momodou Camara, an MP, told the assembly.
Twenty-three MPs voted to uphold the ban, with 10 votes to repeal it, an AFP journalist said. Other MPs were either not present in the chamber, or abstained from voting.